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The Rose Grower

by Michelle de Kretser

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1935112,146 (3.39)1 / 9
"On a cloudless summer afternoon in 1789, labourers working in the fields around Montsignac, a village in Gascony, saw a man fall out of the sky.The balloon had drifted over a wooded ridge and into their valley. The farmworkers, straightening up one by one, shaded their eyes against the dazzle of the sun on crimson and blue silk. The thing hung in the sky - sumptuous, menacing - like a sign from God or the devil. Then there was thunder and fire, and a man plummeting earthwards. It was the 14th of July. The world was about to change. The timeless story of Sophie nursing the ambition to create a repeat-flowering crimson rose, the like of which has never been seen in Europe. Then Stephen, the American balloonist falling out of the sky and into Sophie's life - a love story that unfolds against the sensuous green landscape of Gascony. It is the 14th of July, the year is 1789 and revolution hangs in the air closing in on the private world of the Saint-Pierre family and threatening to change their world forever. Michelle de Krester's gripping tale of love, roses and the French revolution is seductive, moving and beautifully written. The popularity of this book has made it… (more)
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A historical novel of love and betrayal set in rural France during the French Revolution.

Michelle de Krester grew up in Sri Lanka and now lives in Australia, but neither of these places appear in this early novel of hers. I am hesitant to claim the book for my South Asian or Australian Challenges. In The Rose Grower, she has created a story set in southwestern France from 1789 to 1799 as the French Revolution broke out and turned into a “reign of terror.” If we know anything about the French Revolution, we know the events that happened in Paris. By choosing a setting “seven days by four-horse coach” from Paris, de Krester resolves some problems of historical fiction. She is able to capture the mood and patterns of the time without fictionalizing the leaders and events that left historical evidence. Doing so, of course, means that de Krester has had to do immense amounts of research in a variety of sources, but the effort pays off in the end. Reading this book makes the reader feel the story might really have happened.
Read more: http://wp.me/p24OK2-11U
  mdbrady | Apr 1, 2014 |
I've had Michelle de Kretser's novel on my 'random F-Rev' to read list for a while, but only recently succeeded in borrowing a copy from the library, which I think was the right choice - although I enjoyed the author's beautiful writing and quirky humour, I don't think this one is a keeper. The Rose Grower is more a series of vignettes than a story, following the lives and loves of the St Pierre family of Gascony, south-west France, during the Revolution. Some readers might be put off by the slow pace and lack of structure, but I actually enjoyed the eccentric, free-wheeling narrative - reminding me of Daphne Du Maurier's The Glass Blowers in the form of an Audrey Tautou comedy - that allowed the characters to come to life and the scenery to take over the book!

But, if you want an idea of the story, then the central series of events begins with Stephen Fletcher, an American balloonist, who falls out of the sky and falls in love with Claire St Pierre, a married woman. Her younger sister Sophie, the rose grower of the title, falls in love with Stephen, all the while unaware that Joseph Morel, the local doctor, is in love with her. Youngest sister Mathilde, the most inquisitive and imaginative of the three St Pierre girls, observes them all with the droll wisdom of an intelligent child, and the Revolution slowly filters down from Paris.

The magic is in the language - de Kretser's descriptions of food, nature and Sophie's roses really leap off the page to captivate the senses. I almost want to start growing my own garden after reading about such beautiful flowers! '[Robert le Diable] flowers late, providing colour at the end of the season, and its violet petals are splashed with cerise and scarlet. Later, they fade to a soft dove-grey. Sophie has a terrible weakness for it'.

I also liked the humour of the dialogue, but felt distanced from the characters by the omniscient narrator, in the mocking style of nineteenth century authors like Thackeray. I was able to escape into another place and time, though, which is all that matters! A lyrical and subtle take on the Revolution, from a very talented author. Recommended. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Jun 7, 2012 |
A book that was spell-binding, and yet - I resented it. The different ingredients are not well mixed and the characters do not come to life properly. Reminded me a bit of the Angelique series which I read as a teenager in France, hot and steamy and probably by now completely unknown.
The different ingredients: the rose growing was neat, but it was there mainly to demonstrate the heroine's cleverness, and it was not sufficiently part of the story. Knowledge of 18th century French cooking was only mildly interesting, one of the characters had to have an obsession with food, there is a good description of him cooking a pudding towards the end, but again one could have removed the entire episode without losing anything from the story itself.
A librarian had told me this was 'not kitsch' - I beg to differ. And yet, historically, I think it is good - the fear and loathing which existed between different classes of citizens in post-Revolutionary France is well evoked. Despite the reservations I expressed above - if I could write a story like this, I would be pleased. ( )
  michalsuz | Dec 6, 2009 |
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Small change, small change.

Napoleon Bonaparte, surveying the dead on a battlefield
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For my mother

& in memory of my father
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On a cloudless summer afternoon in 1789, labourers working in the fields around Montsignac, a village in Gascony, saw a man fall out of the sky.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"On a cloudless summer afternoon in 1789, labourers working in the fields around Montsignac, a village in Gascony, saw a man fall out of the sky.The balloon had drifted over a wooded ridge and into their valley. The farmworkers, straightening up one by one, shaded their eyes against the dazzle of the sun on crimson and blue silk. The thing hung in the sky - sumptuous, menacing - like a sign from God or the devil. Then there was thunder and fire, and a man plummeting earthwards. It was the 14th of July. The world was about to change. The timeless story of Sophie nursing the ambition to create a repeat-flowering crimson rose, the like of which has never been seen in Europe. Then Stephen, the American balloonist falling out of the sky and into Sophie's life - a love story that unfolds against the sensuous green landscape of Gascony. It is the 14th of July, the year is 1789 and revolution hangs in the air closing in on the private world of the Saint-Pierre family and threatening to change their world forever. Michelle de Krester's gripping tale of love, roses and the French revolution is seductive, moving and beautifully written. The popularity of this book has made it

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